Mandela, Obama, and the Arc of the Moral Universe

by lizard

Upon hearing the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing, Obama described Mandela as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

Such nice words from a man who took history in his own hands five years ago to apparently continue bending the arc of the moral universe into the dirt.

Obama says stuff, because that’s what he’s good at. He talks about reforming this, and closing that, but when it comes to action, Obama is a paper tiger, which is being generous.

Take the president’s clemency record:

A ProPublica analysis of Justice Department statistics last November found that Obama had granted pardons at a lower rate than Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush had at the same point in their administrations.

Obama has now granted a total of 39 pardons and denied 1,333.

Here’s a more recent article published before Thanksgiving—that time of year our president pardons Turkeys:

President Obama on Wednesday will pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. Which makes this a good time to ask why a liberal constitutional lawyer who bemoans the bloated prison system and proclaims that “life is all about second chances” is–on the matter of clemency–one of the stingiest presidents in U.S. history?

Put another way: If a turkey deserves a second chance, why not Weldon Angelos?

Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years’ imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn’t brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.

Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence “cruel and irrational.” While urging Obama to reduce Angelos’s punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, “While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress.”

Don’t worry pro-Obama liberals, Obama says he’s going to reform that shit. I’m sure he really wants to. Let’s just hope those darn Republicans don’t obstruct him.

Another policy issue where Obama has plunged the arc of the moral universe into hell is GITMO, where prisoners on hunger strikes are still getting force-fed:

Officials at Guantanamo Bay have implemented revised protocols for hunger strikes and force-feeding, according to a Justice Department letter obtained by Al Jazeera. The controversial military detention center keeps scores of detainees imprisoned, often without charge.

The move comes as officials at the base disclosed this week that they would no longer release new figures to journalists on a hunger strike that is currently underway. As of Monday, the last day Guantanamo officials released fresh numbers, 15 prisoners were protesting, up by two from the previous week. All of the hunger strikers were reportedly being force-fed.

According to the Justice Department letter, officials at the base revised their protocols for dealing with the hunger strike and force-feeding methods on Nov. 14 to “better focus on the adverse health effects of clinically significant weight loss on each individual detainee.”

But mystery surrounds exactly what those changes are. Navy Cmdr. John Filostrat, the prison spokesman, declined to disclose details about what exactly changed in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), or to answer any questions about why the changes were made. Filostrat said to do so would interfere with “operational security.”

I’m sure if Nelson Mandela was engaged in a struggle against US imperialism, using the tactics he employed against apartheid, Obama would have labeled him a terrorist and blown him up with a drone strike or a JSOC raid.

And pro-Obama liberals would have nodded solemnly, defending their guy by explaining what a difficult job it is leading the free world.

  1. Big Swede

    “Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro… Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious imperialist campaign designed to destroy the advances of the Cuban revolution. We too want to control our destiny… There can be no surrender. It is a case of freedom or death. The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.”

    — Nelson Mandela

    • lizard19

      from Steve Lendman’s review of The Shock Doctrine

      Klein quotes Nelson Mandela in January, 1990 (two weeks before he was freed) in a note to his supporters from prison saying: “The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC (and changing) our views….is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.” That belief became ANC policy in 1955 in its Freedom Charter. The liberation struggle wasn’t just about a political system but an economic one as well. White workers in mines earned 10 times more than blacks, and large industrialists worked with the military to enforce order and disappear dissenters.

      Once apartheid ended, a new way was possible, and Mandela seemed poised to lead it. The ANC had “a unique opportunity to reject the free market orthodoxy of the day” and choose a “third path between Communism and capitalism.” ANC candidates swept the 1994 elections and Mandela became president at a time South Africa surpassed Brazil as the most unequal society in the world. Negotiations were held with the ruling National Party, and a peaceful handover was achieved but not without “prevent(ing) South Africa’s apartheid-era rulers from wreaking havoc on their way out the door.”

      Negotiations took place on two parallel tracks – political and economic. Mandela and his chief negotiator, Cyril Ramaphosa, “won on almost every count” politically. But along side it, economic negotiations were held with the country’s current president, Thabo Mbeki, in charge with the outcome in the end far different. With ANC leaders preoccupied with controlling Parliament, the former white supremacist government and industrialists were determined to safeguard their wealth, and they succeeded by assuring Washington Consensus policies would be instituted when political power changed hands.

      ANC economists and lawyers were outfoxed or outgunned by the opposition, IMF, World Bank, GATT and power of big capital against inexperienced politicians and technocrats who ended up losers. Black officials controlled the government, but discovered the real power was elsewhere. As Klein put it: “The bottom line was that South Africa was free but simultaneously captured.” The leadership mistakenly thought once firmly in power they could undo earlier made transition compromises.

      why do you think he’s getting the royal treatment, Swede?

      because he lost gracefully.

      • Big Swede

        He’s getting the royal treatment only because of symbolism not substance.

        “Each South African day sees an average of 59 murders, 145 rapes and 752 serious assaults out of its 42 million population. The new crime is the rape of babies; some AIDS-infected African men believe that having sex with a virgin is a cure. Twelve percent of South Africa’s population is HIV-positive but President Mbeki says that HIV cannot cause AIDS. In response to growing violence, South Africa’s minister of safety and security, Steve Tshwete says, “We can’t police this; there’s nothing more we can do. South Africa’s currency, the rand, has fallen about 70 percent since the African National Congress (ANC) came to power in 1994. Emigration from South Africa (mainly of skilled people) is now at its highest level ever.

        Mr. Kenny asks: “Is South Africa doomed to follow the rest of Africa into oblivion?” He says no but I’m not as optimistic because of the pattern nearly everywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa. The tragic fact of business is that ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism. Colonial masters never committed anything near the murder and genocide seen under black rule in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Somalia and other countries where millions of blacks have been slaughtered in unspeakable ways that included: hacking to death, boiling in oil, setting on fire and dismemberment. If as many elephants, zebras and lions had been as ruthlessly slaughtered, the world’s leftists would be in a tizzy.” -Walter E. Williams

        • lizard19

          And now, a word from the president!
          Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
          Gettin voted into the white house
          Everything lookin good to the people of the world
          But the mafia family is my boss
          So every now and then I owe a favor gettin’ down
          Like lettin’ a big drug shipment through
          And send ’em to the poor community
          So we can bust you know who
          So voters of the world keep supportin’ me
          And I promise to take you very far
          Other leaders better not upset me
          Or I’ll send a million troops to die at war
          To all you republicans, that helped me win
          I sincerely like to thank you
          ’cause now I got the world swingin’ from my nuts
          And damn it feels good to be a gangsta

          —Geto Boys

          • Big Swede

            I’ll translate the Geto Boys for ya.

            “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.” — H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 26 July 1920.

  2. The media made a shit storm of Mark Rich in 2000 just before Clinton left office but now most people couldn’t tell you who that is.

    Obama should pardon thousands, maybe tens of thousands. I mean, he’s done after this. What, is his speaking fee going to go from $750,000 to $695,000?

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